KLITCLIQUE | Wir spielen nicht

Once upon a time, in a cultural landscape designed by men for men, women entered the world of art. However, they could not participate by choice and did emerge neither as active agents nor as constructive creators as the men did; rather they were sexualized objects of display, passive effigies of themselves permitted by them. It was never the intention of the women, though, to dwell in this inferior role assigned to them by the men, and instead, they demanded the invention of their own agency. Thus, the men, who had convinced themselves through exclusively internal affirmation that they were alluring Prince Charmings and gracious enablers, were soon to be overthrown by the women. But as proud knights of fragile egos, the men wanted to reign over the cultural landscape alone and countered with ludicrous yet systematic diminution strategies. Therefore, until today, the fate of women in the arts is to be savage. For to exist equally ever after, to free yourself from the passive to be active, not only the syntax of a construct but that of the entire narrative must be reconfigured.

As two feminist icons of the Viennese art scene, Judith Rohrmoser (*1983, lives and works in Vienna) and Miriam Schweiger (*1986, lives and works in Vienna) aka Klitclique are heroines of this ancient but contemporary tale. Heavily armed with trappy hip-hop aesthetics and nasty Viennese humor transferred to installations and performances, they rebel against masculine defaults, disempowering the obsolete yet viral topos of the white cishet male genius artist. And although Klitclique don’t take themselves too seriously in their process of careful overthrowing, they approach the advocated subjects with the utmost severity. 

With a healthy dose of suave fuck-you-attitude, the duo disrupts conceptions of what is socially divided into the dualism of male and female, freeing women from their role of limited existence. In this sense, the exhibition Wir spielen nicht materializes a retrospective, displaying a conglomerate of works that in its entirety presents not only a complete subversion of sexism but also a correction of part-time solidarity. In doing so, the two artists usually favor the not-too-blatant, but rather the inventive route of wittiness. The replication of cannabis buds in ceramics, for instance, indicates a reference to the dependence of daily lifestyle on non-humanoid female structures: Solely the buds of female plants are consumable. Their quality would suffer from the presence of males, which is why they are usually eliminated. Consequently, the industry aims to produce as potent females as possible (a joyous antidote to our social dystopia?). Regarding the human sphere, especially in the arts, however, it’s not so easy. The notion of the contemporary art gallery as the conceptual preliminary stage of the museum has unlimited emancipatory potential, but rarely utilizes it, continuing to marginalize women. As a result, female artists appear either as a largely anonymous part of a multitude or as an over-defined lone figure, often as a derivative of the boring old “you are not like other girls” tune. 

This polarization empowers the noisy status quo of the white cishet male to still claim to be theobjectively normative one, therefore classifying all other perspectives as anomalies in its self-spun web of consensus. A peculiar effluxion of this intrusiveness is dismissing materials such as ceramics and textiles as “typically female”. By using and studying a wide range of various materials including both, Klitclique destigmatize and de-define such attributes through egalization, showing how to successfully outsmart male set conventions. In this way, they additionally overturn male-dominated art historiography, which by tradition has seldom featured women: A cardboard replica of Tracey Emin’s iconic My Bed, revived as an artifact from one of the artists’ music videos, doubles as a reference to Klitclique’s own practice as well as a tribute to the courageous women artists of the present and recent past.  

One quality especially is common to all the duo’s works, be it music or visual art: Rather than indulging in the draining pessimism of struggle that we often associate with feminism, Klitclique’s works reflect the impish optimism we all so desperately need. Wir spielen nicht thus creates a disinhibiting flagship space where pure, fun matriarchy is embraced and lived, embodying the generic feminine that we are lacking in everyday life. Gentlemen, welcome to the world of reality. But watch out: We laugh, but we don’t play.

Teresa Kamencek